Jul 25, 2014

My Experience With the Destiny Beta

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About a year ago, I shared my first impressions, thoughts, and opinions on the Defiance beta. This year, a new game has reared its head to the masses: Bungie's Destiny. If hype were a state of matter, the amount of it surrounding Destiny at the time of the closed beta dropping could have been sliced in two and still retain its shape. It's obvious that Bungie has poured their souls into their biggest game to date, and they had an astronomical success with the Halo series under Microsoft. Bungie has allied themselves with Activision now, and fans were eagerly awaiting what Bungie can do with the experience developing Halo has given them.

As of the writing of this article, Destiny has been out of closed beta for 14 hours, and I got to sit with a few buddies and experience it for the first time. Keep in mind, I have not followed Destiny at all, so this is as close to an unbiased mindset as I could have had for these first few hours. Also, during my time with the beta, I have not played any competitive multiplayer, so I have no comments to make on that.
The Sparrow is the fastest way to get to the next Darkness area.

When I booted up my Xbox 360 and finished downloading the 5 GB file, I hopped in, and it lets you pick a class and appearance right away. For my first session, I chose the Warlock, whose special abilities include a damaging vortex grenade and a thrown energy blast. The other classes are the Hunter, with a golden gun ability so you can play 007 Goldeneye, and the Titan, who I have not played as of this writing, but has a stomp ability as well as flashbang grenades. Sadly, that's where the differences end. Aside from the powers and special ability trees that each character gets, they all play the same way. Compared to Borderlands 2, where all six characters play differently on a base level as well as working around their powers and skill trees, this seems very lackluster.

As I customized my Warlock and jumped in, a cutscene plays, where we first see the war-torn Earth, seven hundred years into the future. A Ghost, a small AI platform, finds and awakens me. This Ghost (voiced by Peter Dinklage) is your companion for the entire game, much like the Cortana of Halo, Angel from Borderlands, and Navi the Fairy. This first level serves as a tutorial, where the player can familiarize him/herself with the basic running and shooting mechanics, pick up a few weapons, and defeat their first enemies.

Get used to him.

The first thing I notice is that the last-gen version doesn't look half-bad, and it controls rather well. It's definitely passable, and I had no technical problems while playing. Whether the last-gen and current-gen versions are the same aside from graphics, I cannot be sure. From what I can tell from various sources, that seems to be the case. If you're worried that you'll be missing out on any content if you don't have a new console, I think you'll be more than happy.

After that, you find a spaceship and are transported to the Tower, or the hub world for the beta. Here, you first see the MMO influences. While you're not joining large groups like in , the fact that you can interact with players in the Tower is interesting, nonetheless. The D-Pad controls different gestures that you can direct at specific players. I spent several minutes dancing in front of idling strangers because I have a child's sense of humor. When you decide that you've had enough of playing solo, you can join a fire team through the pause menu. Be warned, however, that when I tried to gather a party larger than three people, we were effectively locked out of the co-op aspects of the beta. The game supports up to six people in a fire team, but only in the competitive gametype. If that isn't your cup of tea, then you have to keep your parties small, at least in the beta.

The Tower also has shops where you can spend glimmer (the currency of Destiny) to buy new weapons, armor, and emblems. You can also use glimmer to purchase upgrades for your weapons and powers, when you unlock them. You earn glimmer by finding loot chests out in the field, dismantling weapons you don't need, or by playing the competitive mode, dubbed “The Crucible.” In my time with the beta, I was never strapped for cash, but I also found a weapon setup I enjoyed relatively quickly. You might have to buy a few weapons before you find a combination you like.

After you join with a few friends and start playing some missions, you can tell the game was designed around it. Reviving downed allies is hassle-free and they can respawn after a short time period if you can't get to them. The exception to this is Darkness areas, explained as areas that the Fallen or Hive (the two enemy factions) control. In these areas, once you respawn, you spawn at the beginning of the darkness area. In addition to this, the respawn time is longer, meaning you stay out of the fight longer before you can come back, and if every player in the fire team goes down, you restart the area and all enemies respawn. This reminded me of the Iron skull from Halo, and it adds a nice degree of challenge and frantic pace, trying to both stay alive and help your allies.

There are five or six regular missions, plus a Strike event and a free-roam area, which all take place on Earth. The full game advertises exploration to numerous planets, however. The Strikes are basically raids, and the one available in the beta is much more difficult than the regular missions. Luckily, if you need help, Strikes offer matchmaking so other players can jump in and help you out. I cannot comment on the quality or parameters of the matchmaking, however, because I always played with two friends. If you are higher rank, you can try your hand at raising the level of some missions, which makes the enemies stronger and increases your XP and cash payouts.

The last noteworthy feature is the Public Events, which were pretty interesting in my opinion. Occasionally while completing a normal mission or in free-roam, your Ghost will mention some objective that can be completed. These events, when they appear, are available to everyone on the current server, so you may see four or five other players working to complete it. When you finish the event, which can range from defeating waves of enemies to defending an upload site, you get a bronze, silver, or gold award, depending on how long it took you to complete it.

The Destiny beta is nothing we haven't seen before: the abilities and loot of Borderlands, the gunplay of Halo, and the exploration of Mass Effect. However, if Bungie delivers on the hype that this game has had since it was announced, it could be the first game to combine all three seamlessly. Even if you're not interested in the competitive aspect, the single-player and co-op gameplay could be worth your $60 when it drops in September.

This article was written using the Xbox 360 version of the Destiny beta. Beta ends on July 27, 2014.


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